Baked bean suppers in Maine. Friday night in Maine growing up meat putting the yellow eye or Jacob’s cattle or soldier bean in the pot to soak.
My Mom’s Saturday morning ritual was adding the other ingredients to the overnight soaked beans for the feast that night. Often the same batch of beans made a debut at the Sunday morning breakfast along with the traditional eggs just the way you liked them. Along with the baked bread, home made jam, sizzling bacon strips, hash browns with the sliced and diced nicely onions, peppers, mushrooms.
The Saturday night supper was not the only evening meal starring the beans that rarely came out of a B&M can .
Tap the can kind offer a slew of options beyond the kind the cowboys out West whipped out of their saddle bags. To savor under the star filled sky before propping up against the saddle the horse was glad to have removed for the evening.
Where did the Saturday night bean supper tradition come from anyway?
Some say the gaseous propulsion delight can be blamed on the Pilgrims. Makes sense if you think of the Boston Baked Bean label most associated with the meal. I always heard the baked bean supper originated from Canada. My Dad’s Mom came from Burt’s Corner in New Brunswick Canada.
A full plate of beans and a piece or two of home made baked bread to help the guy or girl who will be washing dishes at the end of the meal that night.
Don’t waste a drop of the baked bean sauce juice. Not so hard to pass in a clean plate for the sink scrub or to tuck away in the dishwasher. Beans, just baked beans can be more than enough in a solo meal offering. Like how you and I love our steak cooked best…. beans recipes vary greatly. The consistency of the baked bean can be mushy, hard as rocks or somewhere in between. Beans tucked away and frozen don’t quite have the same consistency as those from a new batch in the two day to make process.
Over time, the baked beans just improve in taste in my opinion.
Or maybe it is looking forward to the pot of beans made to last longer than just the Saturday night session at the Maine farm house setting growing up with my three older brothers. The recipe your Mom, Grandmother used and past down is a big part of the tradition. But today so many classic heirloom bake bean recipes and new variety introduced to enjoy them so many new ways. Hot or cold, three bean salad, in a soup, re-fried and cheesed up with lots of accent condiments.
The big bean pot created for Saturday night but also to help family members coast on Sunday morning breakfast preparing for the big noon time after church dinner room spread.
Or maybe to pack up along with the potato salad and BBQ chicken and drinks to tuck in the summer picnic basket for outdoor Maine dining. A Mexican / Southwest TexMex dip is always makes the party hostess a happy camper as she opens the door to greet the guests bring the piece of the Maine pot luck meal. Someone always remembers to bring beans. Black, brown, all the other colors and combinations.
Old and familiar is a comfort and I bet some of you in the audience feel the same way about your tuna fish and potato salad. No one made it like your Mom or Grandmother. Take potato salad, there is a world of difference in how to create it. Do you weave in radishes, celery, cucumber and onions? Have you ever introduced kale or leaf lettuce? Who says there are rules in the kitchen and beautiful mistakes expand the culinary horizons. Some folks scared of sampling certain foods unless they were from your Mom’s, Grandmother’s or your own kitchen.
Yukon golds potatoes that have been hanging around.
Those work well in potato salads just like aged bananas are the ones to make bread with the same name. Over ripe strawberries make the best jam. In my household, especially in the later years, Dad was in charge of the baked bean meal time entree. He experimented with the dig down deep out behind the farmstead and build a fire then cover it up for the slow roasted bean hole bean approach.
The local Patten Maine Lumberman’s Museum folks in northern Penobscot County Maine serve bean hole beans at their suppers.
Watch Patten Lumberman’s Museum bean hole bean supper video.
Long multi day affairs to dig holes, start fires, create a hot bed of coals to cover up around the bean pots. To create the cooked in the Earth pots of beans to serve up to long lines of hungry museum patrons. That make the pilgrimage to savor the timber history of logging in Maine. And just as much excitement about the plate of bean hole bake beans included in the price of admission.
The pressure cooker whistling and gyrating another tactic used to create the familiar baked bean weekly offering that kind of scared me a little. My Dad later in life after the kids left and he had transition from round the clock farming tied on the kitchen apron. Took pride in the weekly bean production. Trying the quicker bean making route with the sealed pressure cooker on the gas cook stove.
I made a wide path around the gas stove with the pressure cooker winding up to shorten the time it takes to make the baked beans. In a small pantry, it is hard to keep your distance from a cook and whatever they are creating for meal time though. The same beans heated up on the wood cook stove out in the main country kitchen dining room through the week during the winter. Summer was not a break from the Saturday night bean supper tradition either.
What goes in to create the best baked beans for the suppers is up for debate.
I can only speak from experience. Starting out reading the side of the two pound plastic bag for the this is how you do it. Getting the mustard, adding the onion, trying to avoid the salt pork. Our Maine farm for many years grew the clean, shiny, hard shelled yellow eye beans. The Appaloosa style burgundy speckled Jacob’s cattle, the longer ammunition soldier beans too grown on the Aroostook County Maine farm fields. But black bean, garbonzo, catalinni and lots of other bean varieties to try.
Watch the video on 23 heirloom bean varieties to weave into your what’s for supper creative spirit for meal time planning.
When you raise beans, your biggest enemy is a wet fall to harvest them. Like the soaking them Friday night drowning for the delightful meal the following night, the dry, crackling pods rattle and are thirsty as heck. Like the desert needs the rain song reminds just how much the sandy region with high dry temperatures needs moisture. Snow suddenly adding to the tension of getting the bean or whatever agricultural crop out can ruin a perfectly good crop too. The heavily sagging dying bean vines can wick from the bottom when the snow melts and gets absorbed.
Moisture in storage for hay, grains, beans too is not what you want.
Spontaneous combustion heating up happens but also mold, discoloration can hurt bean storage. On the Maine farm we used two re-purposed grain silos to store the beans in the fall. Sometimes rolling the beans in a large cylinder with lots of air holes to help them breathe and dry out a part of the fall harvest ritual. I would invite my friends over through out the winter months to spend Saturday grading the beans brought in from the silo by auger. Half split beans, any rocks too along with deformed shriveled up ones were removed while something on eight track played in the back ground.
On our Maine farm, we shipped many yellow eye, soldier, Jacob’s cattle beans to Kennebec Bean Company. Lots of them were also packaged up in a plastic two pound bag. Heat sealed and peddled locally using a pick up face to face point of sale approach. Canvassing all the small town Maine grocery stores to sell a box or two here and there before heading home with an empty truck. Watch a video on bean farming in Maine courtesy of Green Thumb Inc.
What goes best with the baked beans on that supper plate?
Potato salad, coleslaw, banana mayonnaise cabbage salad. Those partner up nicely with a plate of baked beans. Bread and butter pickles, relish, mustard of any yellow or brown shade. Do you reach for a bottle of ketchup? Red hot dogs… a pair of those with natural casings are a must. You can’t get those red dye number three snapper hot dogs many places outside Canada and New England. Snow birds, the two legged kind, pack them in their luggage heading south for the winter in the great annual Maine escape migration.
Brown bread that is steamed seems to be one up the white or oatmeal kind to butter up and park on the edge of your dinner plate. Corn bread, biscuits, heck tortilla chips to scrape and transport your re-fried Mexico pinto beans. Red and green chili or two can jazz up your bean supper. Baked beans, the juicier the better. Made to be the star of the meal or a side dish sampling. New England, Southwest, Canadian, Cuba, whatever style of baked bean cooking, it’s all good.
Beans are one humble super food and not just enjoyed oven roasted in the Boston bean pot.
Ever had a bean sandwich? Bean dip? Three bean salad? Bean soup? Unless they are severely under cooked, you will never break a tooth or need a crown replacement eating a mess of beans. There are no bones like fish. We had rock insurance just in case growing and sorting them to cover the what if one stone made it through the grading table. Beans were always considered a cheap hearty meal like the versatile Maine potatoe. Something a frugal Mainer could warm up to stretching their grocery bill dollars.
The family baked bean suppers are sacred in the private setting.
But add a grange hall or church dining room in a public setting and you hear laughter, see the local community all around you. More hands on deck dishing out the baked beans amplifies the communal spirit. Can you pass the molasses please and sharing conversation back and forth with other bean diners fills you up in many ways. Who needs fake news and hostile presenters? Give me the common man breaking bread and using the crust to soak up the bean juice. That row of bean diners across from you has sage wisdom to share and compare with what you think about the all important local, state, national and global matters.
My Dad always said the west was won on a can of beans.
Probably the railroads and telegraph made their connection possible because of a can of beans Cookie prepared for the immigrant workers. Baked bean supper dinners have always been in the background and foreground of my life living in small town Northern Maine. My four kids relish beans dinners way way beyond just the satisfaction to cure meal time hunger. It reminds them of suppers at the Maine farm house my parents called home.
Baked bean dinners in Maine.
The wisdom shared with the passing portions of the Saturday night meal helped build their confidence, their life outlook, the skill set. Meal time should be slow cooked, all hands on deck to be a part of it. Active participants, not waited on to0 hurried. Meal time is sacred for the table talk, the pass the beans please. The apple pie or blueberry cobbler, strawberry rhubarb tart or crisp concoction after wards. More coffee?
My Mom would call on a Wednesday and report I just made a pot of fresh beans for supper.
Why don’t you break the kids out and enjoy them. Macaroni and cheese was also another portion of the plate shared with the star, Maine baked beans. Bacon in your beans, brown sugar, real butter. No one prepares or enjoys them quite the same. The cook’s recipe is a guarded secret too. A Maine wedding, a bean pot is often somewhere is the meal time nuptials mix. Did someone say corn bread? Biscuits, yeast rolls, something has to be parked on the plate to wipe up the bean juice. Bratwurst with your kidney or black beans. It is not just yellow eye or pea beans in the oven.
Before the civil war, sea food chowder or Boston baked beans would grace the table of a Northern blue coat Union solider.
The gray uniformed southern Rebel would dine on collared greens, cracklin’ corn bread. Canned beans and bread, salt pork and coffee was common when food was scarce and limited on both sides of the civil war between the states. Beans are protein. They are ideal for the vegetarian who says pass to meat. 1930’s Americans during the late depression ate dandelion greens, spam, squirrel and not prime rib. Limited amounts of food meat rations on one eggs every two weeks during war time. Beans were a meal in themselves like a baked potato can be.
Like Maine lobsters that dined on the worse of whatever laid on the coastal floor, beans were considered a poor man’s meal.
Two pounds of beans to bake for two collars is a good value. Native Americans started the dish with fat and maple syrup in the 1620’s and they shared the recipes with the Pilgrims who added barley to the cornmeal for brown bread. Rum used to make the molasses for the baked bean recipes was introduced by the Brits who did lots of business with Bean Town. Baked bricked ovens left overnight and sampled Sunday were a common stable to New Englanders. Ask someone out Michigan or on the southern border how they like their beans.
Don’t expect yellow eye, pea or soldier beans used in the local supper dining fare. Marafax beans, ever heard of those?
When you love beans, there is no bad bean. They are not all cooked the same way either. Do you add cilantro, a jalapeno pepper and tomatoes to your baked beans recipe? The history of these beans includes introduction to Downeast Maine during the depression by Uncle Sam. Fedco seed still sells them as Marfax and brag them up as sustainable grown, heirloom high yielding and earlier richly flavored well adapted to our cool climate here in Maine. Common ground fair serves up Marafax or Marfax beans. These days eating a lot more black beans than ever before. Those were missing growing up and pushed away by the brown variety bake bean supper meals.
Navy beans, are those only served to good swimmers and on boats?
White pea beans, smaller than other types of beans and slightly flatter. The name Navy bean because since the mid 1800’s that branch of the armed services served them up to sailors. Robust, resistance to mosaic virus, these beans are another variation of the musical fruit. Maine blueberries have lots of the right stuff in them to keep your healthy too! Maine is all over farming!
Storage of beans is easy if kept in a pantry, a cool dark dry place.
When you are a bean grower, whatever is not sold this season will be fine and dandy for the months ahead if kept dry. Water is not a bean’s friend unless you are preparing a bean supper with the first stage, soaking them the night before the feast. You do not want the softening up the hard shiny shell process to begin out in the Maine farm field or due to moisture or dampness in storage. A farmer thinking of what to grow can easily plant, cultivate, harvest and store beans. Minimal equipment, no pressure to have to sell the harvest before spring like other perishable vegetable or fruit produce. IF the fall harvest is not wet and rainy. Or iF storage is not done with musty damp means where the moisture content is too high that causes heat, mold, destruction.
On the Maine family farm we used the Farmall Super M tractor for the work horse to run the four row corn planter that had the plates changed over for beans.
Baked beans suppers in Maine. They start with the spring planting, tending the soil, fertilizer and lime. Removing the new crop of rocks. To hook up and cultivate the rows and to harness up in fall with the pullers. Roll in the bean harvester. Blight, you don’t want to be in your bean fields when it is wet and to cause rust. A shot of nitrogen back when the crop dusters used their planes to apply anything the Maine farmer ordered up whether blueberries or potatoes. Beans looking sickly that needed a pick me up relish liquid nitrogen delivered by plane when a row sprayer is not invited into a damp field.
Not just Saturday night, a new fresh batch of baked beans suppers in Maine created each Wednesday to enjoy at meal time.
Baked beans were an old friend like Maine baked potatoes, a hearty meat loaf, corn or fish chowder served up on the Maine family farm. What is the mystic about a simple meal of Maine baked beans? The fact they were on the menu growing up and introduced during the high chair stage and continued through out our lives. Every wedding in Maine, more often than not, someone cooked a pot of beans. Maybe more than one and the pea beans a hit with the youngsters especially. Ham, steak, not just hot dogs play well as a bean plate companion.
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This blog post installment on baked bean suppers in Maine and how big a part the musical fruit impacts our meal time choice!
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